Eyes of the Tiger

Helter SkelterIt is well known throughout comic circles that Japan’s manga industry thrives due to its range of content and reader diversity. Manga over there is consumed by the general public, and even with magazine numbers declining, graphic novel sales are seeing spikes across the board. However even within the manga world there is still new territories to be discovered.

These days works from international artists and yuri (lesbian relationships) comics tend to be considered the next frontier. But just thirty years ago, ladies comics were the final frontier. Where women were known to read shojo comics, along with shonen and seinen comics, josei (ladies comics) were a new fad driven almost exclusively by harlequin style romances and fashion themed magazine spreads. A generation later, artists like Kyoko Okazaki were beginning to revolutionize the category by branching out from the old memes, while still resonating with a new generation of young women readers.

Helter Skelter is the culmination of that change. In it, Japan’s top fashion model Liliko may be at the top of her field but like many in her position she is wavering internally. But Liliko has good reason for her struggles… She is physically falling apart. While younger, perkier models begin to make their moves on the scene, Liliko like a tiger is not willing to let go of her territory. She takes on more and more work and dates some of Japan’s business elite. All of this is accomplished while continuing to work on her beauty. And with all that stress, the young woman is now breaking down inside and out.

There is no amount of plastic surgery that can fix her. Medication or therapy will not bring her back, either. Nevertheless, if this star is going to fall or fade into obscurity, she is going to take down as much of the business with her. And that downfall proves quite a fascinating ride for the reader.

Dark, powerful and never willing to hold back its punches, Helter Skelter is a challenging work that is well-worth the critical acclaim it has received over the years, having won the Osamu Tezuka Award and the Japan Media Arts Award for Manga Excellence.

Final Curtain Call

Paradise KissVertical does not dive into the realm of license rescues often. But there are works and authors that demand to be part of the public consciousness for as long as possible. And that was the case that was made for Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss. One of the most recognized works from arguably the biggest name in shoujo, Paradise Kiss has remained a beloved series since its initial release. Due to its combination of beautiful art, well paced story telling, and conveying of emotions we’ve all felt, this manga has remained unparalleled in its category and demographic. It’s sure to remain a classic for many years to come.

The heartache and toil enrich every single page of this dramatic read, compelling readers to mainline this josei work. And if you have not sampled the work before, maybe it’s time to grab this last oversized volume, snuggle in, and experience this work for yourself. Unfortunately, yes, the beautifully illustrated outfits, the gorgeous guys and gals, and the melodrama do come to an end but it’s because of how this wonderful manga comes together that has made Paradise Kiss the manga classic that it is today.

The Yaza Arts fashion show draws close.  Can the ParaKiss team be able put the together their differences and finish their final dress in time to beat the competition?  Of course, the story doesn’t end there, not with all drama that needs to be settled. George and Yukari have always had a tumultuous relationship that always left her questioning his true feelings. Unlike Arashi and Miwako, who always seem to pull through together despite their differences regarding Tokumori. Will our heroine make it to the end of the manga hand in hand with her designer boyfriend or will they find that life has other things in store? Will Paradise Kiss make it?

So this week we lower the curtain on the third English edition of Ai Yazawa’s josei fashion hit. But like the best Hollywood hits readers can continue to experience this timeless work for years to come as all three volumes of this new omnibus collection can now be found on shelves in New York, London, and maybe eventually Milan.

Fashion Forward

Ai Yazawa’s beloved series Paradise Kiss captures all the drama, enthusiasm, and sense of collaboration of “High School Musical”—only in this case, the talented kids are fashion design students and they’re putting on a fashion show. Yazawa, an internationally top-selling author of shojo manga, was also an aspiring designer and a student at a top fashion school in Japan, so readers get a real insider’s look at the world of fashion and the creative, passionate—and often eccentric—people who dedicate themselves to it.

Paradise Kiss 1 opens as Yukari is rushing to a college exam cram course. Yukari is a serious, straight-laced high school senior, but she’s started questioning whether there’s more to life than just taking tests and succeeding in school. On this particular day, she’s kidnapped by a group of fashion design students who ask her to be their model in the upcoming runway show.At first, Yukari refuses, because she thinks the design students are airheads and flaky, and she’s too busy with her studies. But then George, the complicated and charismatic lead designer of the group, turns on the charm, convincing her to be in the show and also to take a good, hard look at her life.

Ai Yazawa’s gorgeous drawings and lively dialogue (in a new translation) combine to create a cast of endearing, quirky, and very human characters. Readers of all ages will relate to Yukari, George, Miwako, Hiro, Arashi, and the others as they struggle to find their unique identities and make the tough choices necessary to becoming an adult.